Silent in Seattle on Israel’s war

August 14, 2014

The Seattle City Council refused to discuss the issue of Israel's attack on Gaza, despite the city's relationship with the Israeli city of Beersheba, writes Steve Leigh.

THE SEATTLE City Council took a big step backward on August 11 when it refused to take up the Israeli slaughter in Gaza.

Previous City Councils have issued resolutions on the Vietnam War, the Iraq War and South African apartheid. In some cases, Seattle has been one of the first cities to take up these issues.

Last week, socialist City Council member Kshama Sawant brought up a letter on Palestine that she wanted other councilors to sign on to, opposing the Israeli attack on Gaza and U.S. aid to Israel. It read in part:

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is reaching a critical breaking point. The 139 square mile territory contains 1.8 million people who literally have nowhere to go to hide from Israeli attacks. The UN reports that medical facilities are "on the verge of collapse." An attack on Gaza power plant has left more than half the population without electricity and more than 270,000 people are reportedly into 90 UN shelters...

Unfortunately, Sawant also condemned the Palestinian resistance's rocket attacks against Israel, ignoring the right of the occupied to challenge the occupiers, something recognized even under international law.

Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen
Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen

In spite of that weakness, however, it was vitally important that Sawant raised the issue. Her resolution won support among Palestinian rights activists in Seattle.

But in a demonstration of extremely narrow, parochial thinking, all but one other City Council member opposed even discussing the issue. Their excuse was that international issues didn't pertain to Seattle!

Council member Tom Rasmussen even said, "Council briefings, generally, are to talk about legislation and issues that are currently before the council. The more we stray from that, the more we're going to sound like, kind of, a show-and-tell of a fifth grade class, where we start reading articles and news bulletins from around the world."

Yet Seattle has a sister-city relationship with Beersheba in Israel. Residents of the city of Seattle send $6 million yearly to Israel through their federal taxes, and there are hundreds of Seattle residents who are from Palestine--many of whom have families suffering under the Israeli occupation.

Though the resolution was formally ruled off the agenda for lack of support from other City Council members, supporters of Palestinian rights still mobilized for the City Council meeting that had been slated to discuss it. The Palestine Solidarity Committee, Voices of Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace brought out dozens of supporters. They held banners and signs, and applauded loudly for pro-Palestine speakers, who made moving and excellent points about the importance of the issue.

There was also testimony from supporters of immigrant rights who were testifying for a City Council resolution demanding that Obama use his executive power to stop deportations. Both groups worked well together, supporting each other's points.

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